Saturday, December 4, 2010

Book Review: Everworld series by K. A. Applegate



Everworld series (12 books), by K. A. Applegate (and Michael Grant of the Gone series)
Release Date: 1999 through 2001
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: Between 156 and 200 

Received: Bought
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Amazon Page 



Summary:
Four teenagers, along with the powerful and mysterious Senna Wales, are dragged from our world and into the parallel universe Everworld, a land populated by ancient gods and their human worshipers. Once a stable land, the balance of Everworld has changed with the arrival of the alien god Ka-Anor, who feasts on the Everworld gods, and his insect-like followers who now swarm across the land. Seeing his doom if he remains in Everworld, the Norse god Loki has brought Senna to Everworld to serve as a gateway and allow him to escape into our world. Senna, however, has no intention of helping Loki, or anyone else for that matter, and sees her arrival in Everworld as an opportunity for power and conquest.

The teenagers who have also been transported to Everworld, David, Christopher, April, and Jalil, are swept along for the ride as the gods wage war, pillage, torture, and scheme. Compounding these already life-threatening problems is the mystery of their now dual existence. When they crossed over into Everworld, they somehow split in two, with one half remaining in the real world going about their regular lives and the other half battling for survival in Everworld. When they sleep in Everworld, these two halves merge in the real world where they swap memories with themselves. This allows them to brush up on ancient mythology in the real world, but it also brings up the question that haunts them throughout the series: If they die in Everworld, do they die in the real world as well? As if this weren't enough, each character also has their own real world problems to deal with. 

Review:

Is that summary kind of convoluted? Sorry about that. The thing is, there's so much that happens in this series that it's really difficult to explain it all without giving everything away or not giving enough away. Just trust me, the books are way more awesome than my summary make them sound.

I happened upon this series at a library sale years ago. I was able to pick up 9 of the 12 books, but stuck them in a drawer and pretty much forgot about them. I reluctantly decided to give the series a try now and honestly thought I'd get through the first book and then decide to give the rest away. I mean, look at the covers? They look pretty amateurish and juvenile. All I can say is, holy wow was I wrong! This series is one of my favorite reads of 2010.

This series is absolutely fan-freaking-tastic! The action starts right away and doesn't let up at all. Everything is so intense. The action scenes are heart-pounding adrenaline rushes described at break-neck speed. I couldn't help but get caught up in the pure action and emotion as the characters engaged in battle after battle and witnessed all sorts of torture, depravity, and indulgences. The imagery was so alive and real, I was completely absorbed in what was happening. People actually die (horrifically, graphically), so you really never know what is going to happen. Call me a wimp, but I was so immersed and involved in the story, I actually had to take a short break half-way through the series just to calm down from the OHMYGODCONSTANTPERILBATTLEFIGHTINGGOGOGO!! I think that's pretty awesome.

The books were also much more than I was expecting. If they had only been total action books, they would have still been great, but they went much deeper than that. Each book is narrated by one of the four teens, and slowly their inner thoughts, morals, feelings, fears, and personal demons are explored. Their voices are distinct, and it is fun to see the events from their very different perspectives. We really get to know these kids and their experiences in Everworld have a large and logical impact on their growth and character development. They each had minor irritating characteristics (which were pointed out by the other characters), but they were also all admirable and very likable in their own ways. I really got to know these people and I miss them now that the series is over.

Maybe a very minor spoiler:

Click me to read spoilers

All except Senna, who I thoroughly despised (as you are supposed to). She gets to narrate one book, and while you learn more about her and in some ways feel sorry for her, she is still utterly detestable. I was so happy the author did this. When I realized Senna was narrating one of the books, I was actually angry. I didn't want to hear from her and I was afraid the author was going to try to pull some, "Look, bad guys are really just misunderstood!" and then all the characters would hug after they saw Senna's inner heart. Barf. So I was very happy when K. A. Applegate didn't do that at all. Instead, we see that, while Senna may have her own sad past, she's still an evil cookie who needs killing. Yay!

I also learned a lot about ancient mythology and the cultures of the various peoples. I wasn't a scholar on the subject, but I knew the glossed over basics. There were a number of times where a god or a cultural feature was described in the book in ways that were completely new to me and, sure enough, when I looked them up the descriptions were spot on. Learning about mythology is interesting, but K. A. Applegate took things to a whole new level by making these gods come alive. Never did the book feel bogged down with lessons. The horrors of Hel were absolutely, nauseatingly real. The terror the characters experienced coming face to face with Huitzilopoctli was palms sweating, stomach in knots terrifying. The cultural differences between the various peoples were clearly drawn and actually based on reality. They didn't just dress up the same people in different garb, but instead the descriptions went much deeper showing how the various cultures affected the responses and opinions of the different peoples.

I could go on and on just raving about this awesome series. If anyone is on the fence about this series, wondering if it's maybe too juvenile or hokey, or just turned off by those covers, or wary because the author also wrote the Animorphs series, FORGET ALL THAT! Just give the series a try. Adults, kids, guys, and girls, this series has wide appeal and totally delivers. Just a few warnings before starting:

  • You'll fly through each book in a few hours and each book ends on a massive cliffhanger, so have the next book ready.
  • The books MUST be read in order and you can't skip any books.
  • The ending doesn't wrap things up very well. I was left with a lot of questions I was hoping to have been given the answers to, but it ended very open-ended. Not terribly, but it's there. People who write fan fiction must be overjoyed.
  • Once the series was over, I crashed like a five year old after a three day sugar binge.
The open ending gives me hope that maybe, someday, K. A. Applegate can be persuaded to pick up the series again. Is that wishful thinking? Probably, but it should give some indication of how attached I am to this series. Did I mention I love this series? Oh, just go and read it!
 
 Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

11 comments:

  1. LOL! I love your review so much. Probably my favourite one you've ever done.
    I'd never heard of this series until you mentioned it to me. So obviously I really want to read it now after this 5 star review! Ugh, I wish I wasn't such a slow reader with a backlog of books to read that I currently have my hands on. If what you say is true, that I'm going to want to read one after the other, then I'm going to need time and access to them before I start reading. Hopefully not too far into the future.
    And I love Animorphs! I had no idea this was the same author. That was all you had to mention to get me interested :)

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  2. Haha, I'm so glad you liked it (and read it)! I was afraid no one would read this review because, well, look at those covers?!

    Yeah, you definitely will need one after the other. This is more like they took one big book and then cut it into smaller sections, so the story doesn't end at all in each book.

    You've read Animorphs? I haven't, yet, but I plan on trying them out after loving Everworld so much. There's so many Animorphs books out though, it's a little daunting! Do you need to read them all at once?

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  3. OMG this was the series that got me into YA lit and fantasy. For real. It was great to read about them again and just seeing the book covers brought back so many memories. Unfortunately, they were all sold when I moved to PA from FL. Looks like I might have to hit up the library again. :)

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  4. Oh wow, you're the first person I've spoken to who has read this series! You've just made me so happy. :)

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  5. I read a couple of the Animorphs books in elementary school. Don't remember much about them but as a 9 year old I liked them. So they were perhaps a bit on the young side, you might not enjoy them as much as you would have if you were younger. And I loved the TV show, too!

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  6. Hm, well, I'm still interested. Even if not for me, then for my library patrons. I have a lot of kids that age who would probably be interested.

    I used to love the show! I don't remember much about it now, but I do remember I loved the main guy. I think he morphed into a golden retriever. I used to think he was so cute.

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  7. I loved Animorphs too! Totally recommend. Another great author for childrens/YA is Susan Cooper.

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  8. Ooh, she's the author of The Dark is Rising cycle, right? That one is on my TBR. I really need to read it one of these days. It's a classic! Thanks for the recommendations. :)

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  9. Hmmm, I can't tell if these are on your special shelf given the ugly covers. I remember saying you couldn't draw, but I wonder what you'd put on the front. They sound fantastic! I'm almost breathless from reading your review! Damn Small, I don't need anything else on my TBR!
    But you don't put a lot on that Special Shelf so I guess I gotta read these!

    I think I'll put a book cover on them while I read them!

    Heather

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  10. I, too, loved this series, but unfortunately the ending completely destroyed that for me. I felt cheated by that ending because it effectively cut off whet could have been one of the great fantasy series and possibly even K. A. Applegate's magnum opus and instead detonated an explosion in our faces and left us to try and pick up the pieces from the ruin. I was left with so many questions, all of which remain unanswered, and the way in which the series ended makes the entire series feel underdeveloped. I'm convinced it was unfinished, because there are way too many things left unanswered, way too many plot threads left open. I could list them all — I already have elsewhere — but that would take much too long. It honestly feels like the series only ever reached the end of the first act of this overarching story, if that far. But my biggest problem with the series is that we never got a true insight into the Herwan and, more importantly, Ka Anor. These are the main bad guys, and we know nothing about them except that they all apparently "live to serve Ka Anor" and that Ka Anor himself eats other gods. In all of K. A. Applegate's other series, we get an insight into, and even POV from, the alien races: the Yeerks in Animorphs and the Riders and Blue Meanies in Remnants. In those series, we understand how their societies work, what their views are, what their goals and motives are, and even if there is dissension in the ranks. We never get that with the Hetwan, which I feel is the series' biggest wasted potential. Could you imagine if we introduced a Hetwan character who, let's say, represented a part of the Hetwan populace that had gravitated away from worship of Ka Anor? Or even if — and this could be Ka Anor's history — the Hetwan had other gods initially, but Ka Anor consumed them, forced the Hetwan into servitude and then brought them to Everworld? How awesome would that be? How much more interesting would that make the story?

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! Thank you! I agree with you completely. I just finished the series thinking I had one more book and bam! Ending? What? There was no ending. I feel very let down.

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